The Casual Piracy of the Internet: Stealing is Stealing

Not long after my Star Trek novella came out I discovered a pirated file of the anthology online while searching for reviews. I posted about it on Trek BBS, a very popular message board for Trek fans and writers. I was surprised at some of the responses, that people thought my anger was a waste, that fighting piracy is foolish, that it was all tilting at windmills. I fully admit that fighting internet-based piracy of files is like trying to keep dandelions out of your yard, but, come on, these people are stealing pure and simple. Sure, I’m not going to lose sleep over it, but I’m also not going to let it pass without comment. I reported it to Simon & Schuster, and the file was taken down. Of course, it popped up in other places, which I haven’t gotten around to reporting yet.

A big part of the problem seems to be that people don’t regard this as really stealing. I’m not sure how they arrive at this notion. Clearly they know that this is something that’s for sale by the people who actually own it, and anytime you snag something for free without the permission of the people legitimately selling it, well, that’s what stealing is, isn’t it?

And this is how I make my living, after all. At my day job I edit other people’s writing, and then in my off hours I write my own fiction. Anyone who creates something should be able to sell it, right? Just because it’s in a form that can be electronically distributed doesn’t make it fair game; whether I build a cabinet or write a story, it’s something I’ve made and if you take it without my permission and deny me the ability to profit from my work, you are ripping me off and messing with my job security. That’s pretty low behavior and criminal to boot. It’s still shoplifting, just as much as if you’d walked into a bookstore and stolen a book off the shelf.

Another weird thing about it is the comments posted on the sites that provide the links to the pirated copies. The people are really excited about getting the stuff, they mention how much they love Star Trek and reading the stories. Well, dudes, show some love for the writer, don’t rip him off. If you appreciate all the hard work someone put into crafting a story that’s going to entertain you, then support the writer by buying the work. It’s like stealing food from your favorite restaurant to rave about Trek and then steal all the books.

So, blah, blah, blah, it’s the same old story, but I’m going to bring it up now and again because maybe, just maybe, I might change the mind of a person who’s on the fence about the subject. And I have got to dig up those new dandelions . . .

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